Terminological Methods in Lexicography: Conceptualising, Organising, and Encoding Terms in General Language Dictionaries

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


General language dictionaries show inconsistencies in terms of uniformity and scientificity in the treatment of specialised lexicographic content. By analysing the presence and treatment of terms in general language dictionaries, we propose a more uniform and scientifically rigorous treatment of this content, considering the necessity of compiling and aligning future lexical resources according to interoperable standards. We begin from the premise that the treatment of lexical items, whether lexical units (words in general) or terminological units (terms or words belonging to particular subject fields), must be differentiated, and resort to terminological methods to treat dictionary terms. Our approach assumes that terminology – in its dual dimension, both linguistic and conceptual – and lexicography, as interdisciplinary domains, can be complementary. Thus, we present theoretical (improvement of metalanguage and lexicographic description based on terminological assumptions) and practical (consistent representation of lexicographic data) objectives that aim to facilitate the organisation, description and consistent modelling of lexicographic components, namely the hierarchy of domain labels, as they are specialised lexicon identification markers. We also want to facilitate the drafting of definitions, which can be optimised and elaborated with greater scientific precision by following a terminological approach for the treatment of terms. We analysed the dictionaries developed by three different academic institutions: the Academia das Ciências de Lisboa, the Real Academia Española and the Académie Française, which represent a valuable legacy of the European academic lexicographic tradition. The initial analysis includes an exhaustive survey and comparison of the domain labels used, as well as a debate on the chosen options and a comparative study of the treatment of the terms. We then developed a methodological proposal for the treatment of terms in general language dictionaries, exemplified using terms from two domains, GEOLOGY and FOOTBALL, taken from the 2001 edition of the dictionary of the Academia das Ciências de Lisboa. We revised the selected terms according to the defended terminological principles, giving rise to revised/new specialised meanings for the first digital edition of this dictionary. We represent and annotate the data using the TEI Lex-0 specifications, a TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) subset for encoding lexicographic data. We also highlight the importance of having hierarchical domain labels instead of a simple list of domains, which are beneficial to the data organisation itself, correspondence and possible future alignments between different lexicographic resources. Our investigation revealed the following: a) structural models of lexical resources are complex and contain information of a different nature; b) domain labels in general language dictionaries are flat, unbalanced, inconsistent and often outdated, requiring the need to hierarchise them for organising specialised knowledge; c) the criteria adopted for marking terms and the formulae used in the definition are disparate; d) the treatment of terms is heterogeneous and formulated differently, whereby terminological methods can help lexicographers to draft definitions; e) the application of interdisciplinary terminological and lexicographic methods, and of standards, is advantageous because it allows the construction of structured, conceptually organised, linguistically accurate and interoperable lexical databases. In short, we seek to contribute to the urgent issue of solving problems that affect the sharing, alignment and linking of lexicographic data.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Universidade NOVA de Lisboa
  • Costa, Maria Rute Vilhena , Supervisor
  • Tasovac, Toma, Co-advisor, External person
Award date7 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2022


  • Academy
  • Digital humanities
  • General language dictionary
  • Interoperability
  • Lexicography
  • TEI Lex-0
  • Term
  • Terminology


Dive into the research topics of 'Terminological Methods in Lexicography: Conceptualising, Organising, and Encoding Terms in General Language Dictionaries'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this